The quick answer: Every family has favorite recipes that have been handed down; sometimes there's a story attached. But first, a caution about supplement pills.
A Brief History of Supplements
Has any nutritional discovery captured the public fancy quite like vitamins? You may not remember, it started a century ago, but there was magic to vitamins—lives could be saved by taking a tiny quantity of these vital molecules. Vitamins led to the false idea that a single nutrient, captured in a pill, could remedy a deficient diet. Vitamin supplements became a business, a big business, using factory-made versions packaged as pills.
Today many take vitamin pills as an umbrella insurance policy against poor eating habits, thinking it can’t hurt. So that’s the question: Can vitamins taken outside of a doctor’s care be unhealthy? The answer may be yes. A study in the prestigious English journal Lancet found that people who take multivitamins felt justified to eat fast food, or exercise less.
A couple of years ago the N.Y. Times ran a cautionary article titled, “News Keeps Getting Worse for Vitamins.” The article summarized recent studies and questioned the non-prescribed use of vitamins. This week the N.Y. Times ran another article, “More Evidence Against Vitamin Use.” This article referred to two new studies:
Prostate cancer: A 35,000 man trial of vitamin E (400 IU) and selenium (200 ugm) supplements against prostate cancer was stopped in 2008 when it appeared the supplements might actually be causing prostate cancer. Further follow-up, just released, showed 17% more prostate cancer among those getting the supplements.
Recent large studies have demonstrated that the current model of PSA screening and biopsy don’t reduce prostate cancer mortality. Worse, they add a lot of mental and physical suffering for no clear benefit. This post advised that "the best protection (against prostate cancer) is prevention through lifestyle reform."
Supplements for women: A recent report in The Archives of Internal Medicine on 38,000 Iowa women studied for 19 years, revealed “a higher risk of dying for women using multivitamins and other supplements compared with women who did not.” Only calcium supplements were associated with improved mortality.
If I had a health condition and my doctor prescribed vitamin or mineral supplements, I might ask a few questions but I would follow his or her guidance. Otherwise I follow our earlier post where we discussed vitamins and suggested the best source was the traditional way—through a varied diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and a little meat.
Skeletons in the closet
We were just up in the Rocky Mountains of Utah, enjoying the fall season. The beautiful wife decided to make chili sauce using a family recipe and the old farmhouse was soon filled with fragrant odors. At the end of the summer, tomato vines are full of partially ripened tomatoes that will just rot. As a kid, I found them useful for throwing on Halloween, but you can also make them into chili sauce. It helps if you have some apples lying around. Everyone loves this chile sauce. It’s good with meat, you can use it in 1000 island dressing, and I always have it with omelets. Whenever we have it, I think of Aunt Kate.
Got any old skeletons in your family closet? Here’s a story, but I’m keeping our skeleton out of sight. The Depression was pretty hard for my Mom and her widowed mother; they barely got through it. Fortunately they lived near a strong woman we all remember as “Aunt Kate,” though she was actually a great-aunt to me. Aunt Kate looked out for my Mom, shared the milk from her cow, made sure they had food in the house, and was like a second mother. “The only problem,” my Mom recalled about her second mother, “was if I did something wrong, I heard about it twice.” It worked, I believe, for Mom is a very good woman.
A family tragedy happened during this time—so terrible it was carried in newspapers all across the country. That’s about all I’m going to say. It involved a sister of Aunt Kate and when Kate went over to offer condolences, well, things got out of hand. Maybe Aunt Kate made the mistake of saying something like, “This wouldn’t have happened if you’d followed my advice.” I really don’t know what she said, but her visit so upset the sister that a bad fight broke out and they both wound up in front of the Justice of the Peace. I said Aunt Kate was a strong woman but her sister was too, and given the tragedy that had happened, the judge took sympathy with the sister. His judgment against our saintly Aunt Kate was unbelievably harsh: six months in jail.
Kate was so shocked and angered by the injustice of it all that she just threw a fit. Women may be sweet on the outside, but they have a fire within. Have you ever seen a wronged woman in full rage? For the poor judge, I think, it was like looking into an active volcano and he began to backtrack. “Sentence suspended,” he offered, “if you’ll all just stay away from each other.”
And that’s what happened. Like boxers, each sister retreated to her corner of the ring and they never spoke again, as far as I know. It affected everyone; the children and grandchildren didn't socialize either. Nearly three generations have passed and we’re just now getting acquainted. One cousin lives near me; she’s a delightful person and it’s a pleasure to get together, though there is the sadness for the lost years. But not all was lost—Aunt Kate left us her recipe for chile sauce.
Aunt Kate’s Chili Sauce Recipe
12 large peeled tomatoes
12 peeled apples
3 large yellow onions
3 green peppers
2 stalks celery
1 pint apple cider vinegar (Vinegar provides acid essential to this method of sterilization.)
¼ cup salt
2-1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp each of ground mustard, black pepper, ground cloves, and ground cinnamon
- Grind tomatoes, apples, onions, and celery and place in a heavy pot. (If tomatoes are very juicy some fluid can be set aside and added later, if needed.) Bring to boil and simmer 40 minutes, stirring as needed.
- Add vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices. Simmer 2 hours at low heat, or until desired consistency, stirring every 15 minutes to avoid scorching.
- Sterilize canning bottles in dishwasher. Ladle hot chile sauce into bottles and seal with fresh lids sterilized in boiling water. Lids will “pop” when they seal.
Please comment with recipe requests or ideas. Brook Andreoli just sent 86 pages of “tried and true” nutrition recipes from her nutrition and cooking club. Thanks Brook; we’re working our way through them and hope you’ll let us post some. And we have a backlog of other recipes readers have suggested. We’ll test them all and share our favorites.